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Answers to Go with Susan Smith

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Q. My well water leaves lime deposits on vases so I know it must be hard water. Would it be a good idea to add some vinegar when I water my houseplants?

A. Let’s look at “The Truth about Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why.”

Author Jeff Gillman writes: “Vinegar is recommended as a soil or potting mix amendment for many different plants that like acidic conditions, such as azaleas, camellias and blueberries. It can also be used as a fungicide or herbicide."

"The common recommendation is for about 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 1 quart of water. It is recommended that this recipe be added to the potting medium of potted plants or to the soil of outdoor plants. This recipe is most often recommended for azaleas.

“Since vinegar is acidic, there is no doubt that it will acidify the soil, at least to some extent. Because vinegar mixes well with water, it will not be able to keep the pH of the soil or potting mix low for very long and will rapidly wash through the container or soil profile.

“This differentiates vinegar from commercial soil acidifiers that are based on acids; commercial acidifiers don’t move through the soil as rapidly.

“In fact, I found that adding apple cider vinegar to containers at a concentration of 2 tablespoons per 1 quart of water did not lower the pH of the medium in the container for longer than a single watering, but my results will not hold true for all vinegars because they differ in their acidity.

“I would not use my pricey bottle of balsamic vinegar on azaleas. The effects wouldn’t last nearly as long as commercial acidifiers, such as sulfur or iron sulfate, and I would mourn the needless loss of the one thing that makes iceberg lettuce worth eating. Nonetheless, for people who want to try out this home-brewed remedy, I can think of worse things to apply.

“If you do decide to try vinegar, I strongly recommend sticking with one type once you find one that works. You will need to experiment to determine how often to apply the vinegar.

“Remember that organic gardeners also use vinegar as an herbicide and that adding too much could be quite bad for your plants. If I were to use vinegar, I certainly would not add it every day; once a week is a good place to start.”